“We are, all of us, growing volcanos that approach the hour of their eruption, but how near or distant that is, nobody knows- not even God.” Friedrich Nietzsche
My grandmother’s birthplace…
A remote Greek island belonging to the Dodekanese, not known to many tourists and perhaps even less to Greeks…
I had only been there many many years ago as a young child, to discover the island and meet the family of my grandmother. My grandfather was a teacher from Cyprus who was posted there for a short while, met my grandmother and then they moved to Piraeus where they started a family.
Nisyros is a serene, calm and yet wild island, different and unexpected. This is the island that I experienced during my two week stay in August of 2015.
It is populated by genuine people who endure rough winters and can reach other lands only by boat. A significant number of islanders immigrated to the United States, Canada and Australia in the fifties, looking for a better future for them and their families. Most of them did very well and many return to the island for holidays every Summer and to join in the festivities and the “Panigyri” in honor of Panayia Spyliani on August 15th.
Nisyros features a real dormant volcano. Immense energy comes from actually walking into it! An experience not to be missed! The “volcano” is not only the popular Stefanos crater, which dominates the center of the island. The whole of Nisyros is a volcanic edifice. Each stone on the island owes its birth to volcanic action, each of the hundreds of layers of rocks forming the island was placed there by some volcanic eruption. Because the island is volcanic just like Santorini you will mainly find black sand on the beaches of Nisyros. The island is one with two faces: the volcanic soil is very fertile so the hills and the plains are full of vegetation and the island is very green. There are almond trees, grapes, figs, and in the spring many flowers grow on the island. However, if you climb the hill you will end up in what looks like a lunar landscape, because the caldera of Nisyros island is dry and not much grows here.
During the summer months there is an abundance of day-trips from the near by islands, mainly to visit the volcano, the Venetian fortress and the Holy Monastery of Panagia Spyliani.
Boats arrive at the port of Mandraki, the “capital” of the island. One can take the long trip by boat from Piraeus (between 10 and 14 hours, depending on the season and port stops). Or one can fly into Kos or Rhodes and continue then by a short boat trip. It is not a big island. You can rent a small car or a motorbike to wander around.
Hohlaki, with its trademark black pebbles, is situated in Mandraki, right behind the rock of Panagia Spiliani. Following the coastal road, you reach Agios Savvas where you can swim and enjoy a drink or food.
Next to the fish village of Paloi with its sailing boats port, lies the homonymous beach with sand and tamarix. After Paloi we encounter Lies, with its dark sand and pebbles.
After Lies, a path leads to Pachia Ammos, which is considered the most beautiful beach of the island and is used for the last few years for free camping.
The southern and western part of the island is dominated by formations of lava that fall abruptly towards the sea creating two small openings into Avlaki and Agia Irini.
You can also find fantastic beaches on the island of Agios Antonios, next to Gyali and of course on Gyali itself. Gyali consists of two hills that are joined together by a narrow isthmus. The southwestern part of the island is composed of thick layers of pumice, which are deposited there by two explosions after the formation of Nisyros
Three are the most famous hot springs in Nisyros, the Loutra, 1,500 meters north of Mandraki, the Thermiani in Paloi and the Avlaki in Nikia.
The waters of the hot spring in Loutra exploit the Municipal Hot Spring of Mandraki since 1872. They are legendary for their therapeutic properties in rheumatism, arthritis, skin diseases and diseases of the circulatory system. The maximum temperature of the hot spring is 46 degrees.
The spring of Thermiani is well-known since ancient times. The inscription found on the ruins of the Roman baths which operated in the same area reinforces the view that the father of medicine Hippocrates, had picked out this spring of Nisyros as a thermal spring therapeutic center. The period from 1895 until the early 1930s was the last period during which a healing center in this region was operational, and it is the famous “Pantelidis Baths”. The old baths have been restored these days, but they do not work. The hot spring temperature is 33 degrees.
Food & drinks
In Nisyros you will find traditional recipes such as pithia (meatballs made of chickpeas), boukounies (pork cooked with grease), kapama (goat stuffed with rice) skordalia with almonds and salads dominated by capers. You should also try adramythozoumo.
The types of cheese in Nisyros are also very special, with first and foremost the mezithra, sakouliasti and trigias cheese (local cheese cooked in red wine).
For a desert the choices are many among the traditional sweets of Nisyros, like psilokouloura, xerotigana, diples, loukoumades, foinikia, kourabiedes, moustalevria, halva and spoon sweets (quince, bitter orange, cherry tomato). Don’t forget to ask for pastelaries (opened figs, with almonds and sesame).
The island has a tradition for beverages too, with more widespread being the soumada. You can also drink koukouzina (distilled from grapes or figs and has similar taste with the raki), and also sapsiho and rosemary.
A mountain village situated at an altitude of 400 m, 13km from Mandraki. It is located very near the volcano of Nisyros. Of particular interest is the architecture and in the labyrinthine streets one can easily get lost in its small neighborhoods. Nikia has an elliptic shape and offers amazing views over the caldera and the sea. White houses with flat tile roofs, brightly colored doors and windows create an impressive contrast against the black volcanic rocks and the flowered yards. The famous village square is paved with fine black pebbles (known in the local as hochlakia) which form a beautiful mosaic. The port area is the abandoned village Avlaki, where one can see the Monastery of St. Panteleimon and visit the beautiful sandy beach located on the southern end of the island.
A picturesque mountainous village located 8 km east of Mandraki, the capital of Nisyros. Untouched by tourism, the village has managed to maintain its traditional charm and beauty. The village is built amphitheatrically amongst lush green hills and the few inhabitants who still live here today are involved in agriculture and farming. The village displays whitewashed houses with the flat roof tops. At the center of the village is a nice square with a cafe and a restaurant which serves delicious local dishes.
The terrace offers a breathtaking view to the sea and the volcano which can be accessed from the village. Surrounded by olive trees and grapevines, Emporios village is truly beautiful.
Another one of the main attractions is the famous Monastery of Panagia Kyra (our Holy Lady) which is built at a height of 450 meters above the sea. The view from the monastery is incomparable, into the endless blue…
Almighty skies and omnipresent light… A great place for a different and most relaxing holiday…perfect for meditation! Enjoy!